The All Star teams have been announced and the game will be played next week. From a statistical standpoint we tend to think of players’ performance in terms of pre- and post-All Star break even though we’re already at the midpoint of the schedule. Yes, most if not all teams have already played at least 81 games. Since I’m sort of stubborn and don’t mind going out on a limb now and then, let’s get the drop on everyone else and take a look at the Fantasy All Stars of the first half. While we’re at it, let’s also determine if their performances are enough of a fluke to brand them as potential sell -high candidates.
Buster Posey (SF) – Posey is the best all-around catcher in the game and it isn’t even close. He hits for both average and power, and his production is consistent enough to set your watch by it. In addition, he’s the Giants’ MVP and that isn’t close either.
Stephen Vogt (OAK) – Vogt is the poster boy for late blooming catcher talent. The power isn’t surprising and neither is the average, but what’s really encouraging is the elite level walk rate that has his OBP cruising along at .380 this season.
Paul Goldschmidt (ARZ) – There is no doubt about Goldschmidt here, as he is arguably the most valuable player in Fantasy Baseball this season. In addition to prodigious power and a high batting average, Goldy has contributed 15 stolen bases already. He is a potential 30/30 player, the first we’ve seen since 2012.
Albert Pujols (LAA) – I’ll bet you thought you see Miguel Cabrera here. The big difference, of course, is that Cabrera required a first round pick, while Pujols was likely taken somewhere in the middle rounds. With 25 homers already, Pujols looks almost like he did in his vintage years. I don’t believe for one second that he can keep this up over the second half, so he’s our first sell-high candidate.
Dee Gordon (MIA) – It’s amazing that Gordon has maintained a .399 BABIP and .360 OBP despite walking just 11 times in 357 PA. Gordon slowed in the second half last season and I’m willing to bet we’ll see a similar drop off this season. That makes Gordon sell-high candidate number two.
Jose Altuve (HOU) – This is a tough call because Jason Kipnis and Brian Dozier could easily end up being more valuable by the end of the season. Yet, Altuve offers tremendous speed along with a high average and some pop too. He really contributes in all five categories, which makes him more valuable in Fantasy. However, I could easily be talked out of this choice.
Brandon Crawford (SF) – Aside from batting average, Crawford has out-produced perennial favorite SS Troy Tulowitski. In fact, were it not for the Coors Field factor, Tulowitski would probably have an average much closer to Crawford’s .265.
Xander Bogaerts (BOS) – The fact that Bogaerts wins here despite just three homers and four stolen bases only points out just how dreadful things are at SS in the AL. Considering that you probably picked Bogaerts up in the later rounds, his nice production in runs and RBIs along with a .302 average is a nice surprise. Perhaps he’ll kick in with a bit more power in the second half.
Josh Donaldson (TOR) – Donaldson’s production is remarkable when you consider that the vast majority of his at bats have come from the two hole. He’s on pace for an incredible season with stellar production in four categories. Manny Machado is right on his heels, though, and could easily overtake him at some point in the second half.
Todd Frazier (CIN) – This was another tight race between Frazier and Nelson Arenado, as both are hitting for power and average. However, Frazier gets the nod because of the eight stolen bases and the fact that Arenado benefits much more from his home park. Frazier is on pace to shatter every one of his season-best numbers and I believe he’s going to do it.
Bryce Harper (WSH) – This choice is of the no-brainer variety, as Harper is having a downright Mickey Mantle-esque season. In addition to all the great production numbers, Harper is walking (19 percent BB rate) almost as often as he strikes out (19.9 percent K rate). His .491 wOBA (Weighted On Base Average) is far and away the highest in the NL. To illustrate how far and away he is, consider that Goldschmidt is second in the NL at a measly .452 and Anthony Rizzo is third at just .404.
Giancarlo Stanton (MIA) – I left Miguel Cabrera out at first base in the AL due to injury but I just can’t bring myself to exclude Stanton here. He was having an incredible season despite having virtually no one in the Marlins’ lineup protecting him. I’m amazed that anyone even pitched to him.
Ryan Braun (MIL) – Very quietly, Braun has put together a very strong first half this season despite being part of a woeful team in Milwaukee. His days as a .300 hitter are over, but I’ll take .273 and contributions in all four counting stat categories any day. You probably got him in the third round on draft day too. However, I’m leery of Braun breaking down and perhaps dropping off in production over the second half. The Brewers are likely to trade anyone in that lineup with value and Carlos Gomez is not fully healthy, which could leave Braun as the only productive hitter left.
Mike Trout (LAA) – It’s very hard to believe that we could be treated to another decade and a half of Trout. At just 23 years old (24 in August), he is in the midst of his fourth stellar year of production. He won’t match 2012, when he joined the 30/30 club, but he could easily go 30/20 again with an average right around .300.
J.D. Martinez (DET) – Somewhere in Houston a baseball executive is scratching his head and kicking himself for letting Martinez go. Not only is he hitting for power, he is batting .290 and getting on base at a .344 clip despite a strikeout rate of 26.6 percent. He’s already on track to exceed last season’s production by a long way.
Jose Bautista (TOR) – Sure, Joey Bats is only batting .242, but that is mostly due to a .232 BABIP, which is uncharacteristic and sure to rise during the second half. More importantly, he walks (19.5 percent walk rate) more often than he strikes out (15.4 percent K rate) and is carrying a .392 OBP into the All-Star break. Plus he’s hitting his fair share of homers and driving in runs aplenty. Bautista is in for a big second half, too.
Gerrit Cole (PIT) – Cole leads MLB with 12 wins and he’s well on his way toward winning the NL Cy Young Award this season. The best part is there’s nary a flaw to be found among his peripherals, which means there is no reason to think he can’t keep this up. Cole has a good chance of winning 20 games this season.
Max Scherzer (LAD) – In addition to leading the league in FIP (1.93) and WHIP (0.78), Scherzer also leads the league in complete games (3) and shutouts (2). He’s also allowed the fewest hits per nine innings (5.9) and strikeouts per win (9.93). The only reason he doesn’t have more wins is because his team has only scored 3.83 runs per game for him; they’ve scored three runs or less in half of his starts.
Carlos Carrasco (CLE) – Carrasco’s 4.17 ERA is largely due to an unlucky .340 BABIP. His 2.83 FIP and 2.74 xFIP clearly show that Carrasco is pitching better than his ERA indicates. He has a superb strikeout rate and he induces groundballs 48.3 percent of the time. He’s primed for a big second half and is a great pitcher to target in a trade.
Chris Archer (TB) – Everyone was a bit surprised to see Archer take a giant leap forward this season after a decent 2014 that wasn’t anything special. His control is significantly better and he’s raised his strikeout rate to just a shade below 11 K/9 IP. Even better, his FIP (2.46) indicates that his 2.18 ERA is justified. He’s a potential AL Cy Young award winner and another pitcher to target in trades.
Aroldis Chapman (CIN) – Chapman has notched 17 saves while maintaining a strikeout rate of 15.36/9 IP and a 1.73 ERA. He walks a lot of batters (4.95/9 IP BB rate) but he seems to get tougher with men on base. (.143 BAA with RISP vs. .173 BAA with bases empty) Since his contract is up at the end of the season, the Reds may trade him before the deadline. That makes him a sell-high candidate, especially in NL-only leagues that don’t allow players to continue if they are traded to the AL.
Trevor Rosenthal (StL) – Rosenthal’s ERA is a microscopic 0.70 and it’s smaller than his WHIP (1.04). His strikeout rate is a bit lower than in years past but his walk rate is also much lower after a wild ride in 2014. Rosenthal is one of those closers that literally strikes fear in batters. He’s almost un-hittable.
Drew Storen (WSH) – He deserves mention as well since he’s notched 25 saves with a 1.97 ERA and has a strikeout rate of 10.41 K/9 IP. That is elite pitching for you.
Glen Perkins (MIN) – Very quietly, Perkins has notched 27 saves with a 1.27 ERA to emerge as one of the best closers in the game. You probably picked him up in the later rounds too.
Zach Britton (BAL) – Here’s a name that nobody expected atop the closer rankings. All he’s done is notch 23 saves with an ERA of 1.82. He’s almost as unhittable as Trevor Rosenthal, however, I think he’s pitching over his head and is due for a correction. He’s exhibiting skills that he’s never really shown before. Sell high on Britton before the correction hits.